Parking: The new security contract is for a six-month pilot and could be extended for up to five years. Matthew Hall

The City will spend $200,000 on a new vendor to provide overnight security in ten city owned parking structures following an extended period of concern and patchwork management of the facilities.

Good Guard Security will receive the contract for a six-month pilot program and if officials are happy with the work, that contract may be extended for a five-year term.

Private security have been in the structures since 2018 when the Santa Monica Police Department entered into a contract with Allied Universal Services to address an increase in crime, particularly burglary from vehicles, in the structures. Staff said the first year of that contract saw a 51 percent reduction in theft from vehicles but the contract was ended in 2020 as part of Covid-era cost cutting measures.

Crime quickly rose again in the structures and Allied was rehired in 2021 on a temporary basis while officials worked to develop a long-term contract for security services. An initial plan to have Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM) take over the long-term security for the structures failed to materialize and instead, responsibility for the contract then transferred to the City’s Department of Transportation.

Staff said that of the four companies bidding on the contract, Good stood out among the group for two reasons: their technology and their customer-oriented approach to security services.

Good Guard uses a tracking system that provides live GPS-based tracking capabilities and notifications of guard inactivity. Officials can use the system to track the location of guards and generate reports showing their locations throughout a shift. The inactivity monitor both guarantees quality of service and is a safety mechanism that will alert supervisors if a guard stops moving for too long. Guards and vehicles also are equipped with cameras and will provide that footage to the city upon request.

“One of the most notable features of Good Guard is their customer-oriented approach to interacting with the public. While guards are taught the typical self-defense and deescalation techniques, they are also taught how to connect people in need to resources,” said the staff report on the contract.

Guards are “trained to engage with customers in a civil manner and to attempt to connect them to services, if appropriate.”

Crime in the Downtown area and specifically concerns about the parking structures have been an ongoing concern for Downtown business owners post-pandemic. Police Chief Ramon Batista increased SMPD patrols to the area with more bike patrols, reassignment of officers to the zone and focused officers at transit stops in 2022. The efforts reduced crime overall but less serious issues in the parking structures like sleeping in elevators, urinating in stairwells and drug use have persisted and prompted continued criticism from stakeholders. John Alle, a vocal critic of City Hall who has sued city, installed banners before Christmas saying Santa Monica was unsafe prompting additional focus on the subject during the holiday shopping season.

However, the overlapping layers of authority have caused confusion regarding who is responsible. The City of Santa Monica owns all the structures and manages the contracts with any vendors, including SP+ who are in charge of actual parking operations. DTSM provides some cleaning and has ambassadors at some locations but they do not have control over security or significant repair work.

The new contract covers parking structures 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, as well as the Ken Edwards Center, Main Library, and the Civic Structure. The three named structures were added to the contract in July of 2022 due to lack or withdrawal of services at those locations.

“Wise and Healthy Aging discontinued overnight security services at the Ken Edwards Center at the end of August 2022, the Main Library is only patrolled once a night and has seen an increase in persons loitering overnight, and the Civic does not have any overnight security services,” said the staff report.

Under the new contract, four guards will be assigned to patrol the structures and adjacent areas between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., seven days a week.

This story has been updated to show Alle’s litigation against the city has concluded.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...